Google recently updated its local search results drastically, dropping 4 out of the top 7 listings. Now it is the top 3 search results that are most important for local listings.
The traditional ‘7 pack’ of local map results is gone, replaced by a new ‘3 pack’ results that do not contain any business phone numbers or address details, according to the post here. Here are the elements of a typical snack pack listing.
Some SEO experts believe that this change was mostly done to cater to the usability of mobile search results, as the 3 pack looks better in mobile search. Star ratings are also being given a greater emphasis in the local results, as seen in the search results below.
Even if you do rank in the 3 pack results, like the businesses above, local SEO is going to be a lot more competitive now that there are just three ranks to aim for instead of seven. If you don’t keep working to improve your local SEO, you’ll get knocked off that pedestal soon enough by the competition.
In the screenshot, you can see star ratings with the restaurant. They are using Google’s rich snippets feature.
For many local businesses that depend on SEO for traffic, this probably comes as a big shock.
So how can you work on improving your Local SEO in a 3-pack world?
The main thing is to focus more on good solid organic SEO, both onsite and offsite and take some concrete steps, like the ones below, that can positively impact your local SEO results.
1. Get more Citations
According to Moz, “A citation is a mention of your business name with another piece of business information, such as your phone number, address, website, or a combination of the three. Citations are thought to be important for ranking in Google’s local search results, so the more of them you have from quality sources, the better your business is likely to rank. Submitting your business to the sites on this page is likely to improve your rankings.”
Some more ways you can get citations is by listing your business with the local chambers of commerce directories. Other places to get citations are from blogs, Q&A sites like Quora, events sites, and social media profile pages.
2. Focus on your PR outreach
Send out press releases to journalists about events or new initiatives that your business is launching. Build a relationship with local journalists and write guest posts for their publication, insisting that they give your business a mention in the author bio.
“Even a single mention in a local paper seems to provide a significant boost to both local pack and local organic rankings,” notes Darren Shaw of Whitespark.
3. Competitive research
Keep a close watch on the initiatives that your competition is making, whether it’s in terms of citations or mentions in the local papers.
Jennifer Slegg recommends that you set up alerts for each of your competitor’s business names, so that you get a notification if they have a news story written up about them.
4. Google+ business reviews
Google+ Business reviews are still as important as ever in the local business rankings, so it makes sense to ask your customers to leave reviews on your Google+ Business page.
5. Build backlinks to your site
There are many legitimate ways to build links that matter, including:
• Publishing link-worthy content
• Reaching out to influential bloggers for links
• Guest blogging on authoritative blogs
Even nofollow links can send referral traffic and serve as a brand reminder, writes Jennifer Slegg.
6. Implement JSON-LD schema
JSON-LD is a faster, cleaner, more simple delivery vehicle for schema. Search engines love it as they are able to crawl the code with ease to understand the data more quickly.
Being an early adopter of structured data technologies can pay off as Google has officially endorsed JSON-LD as a way of providing schema.org information.
If the website for your local business is built on the WordPress CMS, installing the SEO Plugin By Squirrly is the easiest way of implementing the JSON-LD schema markup. As the developers claim, this plugin is for non-SEO experts, and is a very useful tool to help you boost your rankings overall.
Even if you already have the Yoast SEO or All In One SEO plugin installed, it won’t create any compatibility issues with them, and you can opt to keep those settings so there’s no need to start all over again.
Here’s how to implement the JSON-LD schema markup to boost your local SEO using this plugin. Login to your dashboard and click on the SEO by Squirrly link. Then click on the SEO link and you’ll see a dashboard like the one below.
Activate the Json-LD metas for Semantic SEO option and it will open a new dashboard when you scroll down, where you’ll be able to fill in your business information. This information will be read by Google and displayed in your local search listing.
If all else fails, and your business still doesn’t make the 3-pack or loses its rankings in the 3-pack, you can always use Google Adwords to target local customers, which is probably exactly what Google wants you to do anyway.
As it stands, local SEO is not going to get any less competitive and it will become impossible for all but the best optimized business to rank organically for their choice of keywords.
For now, you can start by implementing the steps above to give you the best chance of getting organic traffic from desktop, if not mobile searches.
Did you find these local SEO tips useful? Do let us know in the comments below.